Roundup: The best external monitor alternatives to Apple's discontinued Thunderbolt Display

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited June 2016
Apple surprised many this week by abruptly discontinuing the Thunderbolt Display without announcing a replacement. But, as Apple pointed out, "there are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users." With that said, AppleInsider has compiled a list of the top Thunderbolt-alternative displays for Macs that are available today.

Best Apple Thunderbolt Display Alternatives


Compatibility



Now that Apple's Thunderbolt Display has been officially discontinued, those in the market for a new monitor have a variety of alternatives to consider. But before purchasing a 4K or 5K display, you may want to double check whether your Mac supports Ultra HD (UHD) resolution.

Back in late 2013, Apple began shipping Retina MacBook Pros and Mac Pros with Thunderbolt 2.0 support. Twice as fast as Thunderbolt, the 2.0 version allowed for 4K output at 30Hz in Single Stream Transport (SST) mode with some models supporting 4K displays at 60Hz in Multi Stream Transport (MST) mode. Select MacBook Air, iMac and Mac mini configurations adopted Thunderbolt 2.0 a bit later in 2014 and 2015, but the 12-inch MacBook line never natively utilized the technology due to the single USB-C port. For more information regarding compatibility, see Apple's Thunderbolt FAQ.

Macs with Thunderbolt 2.0 compatibility:

MacBook Air (13-inch, Early 2015)
iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014)
Mac mini (Late 2014)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Late 2013) and later
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013) and later
Mac Pro (Late 2013)

Macs that support most single-stream (SST) 4K displays at 60Hz (with OS X Yosemite v10.10.3 and later):

MacBook Pro (Retina, 13-inch, Early 2015)
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
Mac Pro (Late 2013)
iMac (27-inch, Late 2013) and later
MacBook Air (Early 2015)

Best Alternatives to Apple's Thunderbolt Display



Once compatibility has been verified, there are a variety of high-resolution monitors that meet or exceed Apple's Thunderbolt Display specifications. The models shown below offer a variety of features, from UHD resolution to 99% Adobe RGB support.

Dell UltraSharp 27" U2717D InfinityEdge Monitor

Dell U2717D Monitor


Dell's UltraSharp line has long been a go-to for a variety of individuals from gaming enthusiasts to graphic designers. Their latest 27-inch offering, the U2717D, features InfinityEdge borders under 8.4mm for more seamless viewing. In addition, the 16:9 widescreen display utilizes In-play switching (IPS) technology with a max resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels at 60Hz, which is identical to that of Apple's decommissioned Thunderbolt display. The monitor also supports 16.7 million colors with 350 cd/m2 brightness and a 6-8ms response time.

Connectivity:
DisplayPort (DP)
Mini DisplayPort (mDP)
HDMI (MHL)

The Dell U2717D is currently priced at $649.99, which is $70 off, at Dell directly. Third-party sellers on Amazon also have the display starting at $510.

Dell P4317Q 43" IPS LED Display

Dell P4317Q IPS Display


If a 27-inch display isn't large enough, the newly released 43" Dell P4317Q offers an abundance of screen real estate with a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a max resolution of 3840 x 2160 at 60Hz. Featuring In-plane switching technology like Apple's Thunderbolt display, the P4317Q offers 178-degree wide angle viewing and a multitude of connections, such as DisplayPort 1.2, Mini DisplayPort 1.2 and two HDMI 1.4 ports.

The new Dell P4317Q 43-inch LED display retails for $1,349.99 at Dell with free shipping.

Asus PA328Q 32" 4K UHD Monitor

Asus PA328Q 4K Monitor


Built to withstand the rigors of graphic design, the 32-inch Asus PA328Q features 3840 x 2160 resolution, which makes it an Ultra HD monitor compared to the retired Thunderbolt's WQHD (2560 x 1440) display. The PA328Q also offers 100% sRGB and Rec. 709 color space support. Connectors include HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2, and MHL 3.0 -- although it doesn't have a dedicated Mini DisplayPort, Mac users can simply use a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort cable like this one at Amazon for $9.99 to connect the system to the display.

The Asus PA328Q can be found at Amazon for $989.99 with free shipping.

LG UltraWide 34UM88-P 34" LED Monitor

LG 34UM88-P Display Deal


For users seeking a wider Thunderbolt 2.0 display, the 34-inch LG 34UM88-P provides ample screen space to place multiple windows side by side. The WQHD monitor also has not one but two Thunderbolt 2.0 ports plus USB 3.0 quick charge. The IPS panel supports a max resolution of 3440 x 1440 with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

Ports include:

2 HDMI (ver 2.0)
1 DisplayPort (ver1.2)
1 Thunderbolt (ver 2.0)
1 USB Up-Stream (ver 3.0)
2 USB Down-Stream (ver 3.0)

Although the 34-inch LG UltraWide 34UM88-P display with Thunderbolt retails for $999, it's currently on sale for $787.52 at Amazon, a discount of $212 off MSRP.

BenQ SW2700PT 27" WQHD Display

BenQ SW2700PT Deal


Designed with photographers and graphic artists in mind, the 27-inch BenQ SW2700PT features the same 2560 x 1440 resolution as the Apple Thunderbolt display. It also includes a detachable shading hood for glare reduction and 99% Adobe RGB for a broader range of colors.

The BenQ SW2700PT is currently priced at $629.99 on Amazon, which is $20 off MSRP.
dysamoria
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    I have been using BenQ for gaming and also graphic design going on 6 years now. I also have 2 of the Apple monitors for comparison. I have had great experience with the BenQ product and customer support when needed is good. Unfortunately it seems tough to find someone that builds a monitor for greatness versus looking to squeeze every dime out of profit and getting the price point low. I really appreciate how Apple constructs their monitors out of Aluminum and glass. Something to be said for using "premium" materials.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 2 of 26
    They might be the best but they still say derp on the front.
    stompywozwoz
  • Reply 3 of 26
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 3,093moderator
    I me it makes sense Apple might get out altogether from the Monitor business.  For the same reason they likely won't enter the TV panel business.  Apple should be focused on the products it's ecosystem actually runs on, and let others supply the dumb peripherals.  Note Apple is no longer in tbe printer business either.  Beats speakers and headphones/earbuds being an exception to this rule, but as noted by others, Apple bought Beats for the talent in order to launch Apple Music; the hardware came along for the ride and meets Apple's profit margin criteria.  So why not milk that business since Apple sells speakers, etc in its stores anyway.  But generally Apple shouldn't be a major player in peripherals.
  • Reply 4 of 26
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,051member
    I me it makes sense Apple might get out altogether from the Monitor business.  For the same reason they likely won't enter the TV panel business.  Apple should be focused on the products it's ecosystem actually runs on, and let others supply the dumb peripherals.  Note Apple is no longer in tbe printer business either.  Beats speakers and headphones/earbuds being an exception to this rule, but as noted by others, Apple bought Beats for the talent in order to launch Apple Music; the hardware came along for the ride and meets Apple's profit margin criteria.  So why not milk that business since Apple sells speakers, etc in its stores anyway.  But generally Apple shouldn't be a major player in peripherals.
    Apple is in the display business for every product they sell except for AppleTV, Mac mini and Mac Pro. They could easily build a large monitor using the iMac display even if they needed to include and external GPU. Of course every analyst and commenter (including me) is an expert trying to tell Apple what to do. Maybe we need to just let them do their job and we can do ours. 
  • Reply 5 of 26
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member
    Within 12 months I'd say we'll see a new Apple monitor. Apple won't wish to leave such money on the table as someone checks out a Mac Pro, and as notebooks become thinner and smaller a large Apple monitor will be attractive to some. They could take this in any direction and make it a pro hub for notebook Macs and a welcome extension for desktop Macs. Yeah I don't see Apple quitting the monitor game.
    baconstang
  • Reply 6 of 26
    hmlongcohmlongco Posts: 178member
    The LG 34UM88-P is okay but the new LG 34UC98 34-Inch WQHD IPS curved LED Monitor is far superior. The IPS display in the older 34" displays, including the 34UM88-P and those from other manufacturers, often suffer from light bleed in the corners. I bought the 34UC98 three weeks ago, replacing an older Apple Cinema display, and I absolutely love the new monitor.

    The curve is fairly gentle, but there's still enough to bring the text near the edges of the screen closer to your eyes, effectively placing it the same distance away from your eyes as text in the center of the display. I'm not sure curved screens make sense for home theater-sized 65" displays, but I'm now sold on them for desktop monitors.

    The 34UC98 has more of a matte display finish than did Apple's glossy Thunderbolt and Cinema Displays, and as such it's much, much, much easier on my eyes. No more glare from overhead lights and outside windows. The sharpness, to my eyes, is equally comparable.

    Definitely worth checking out...

    Rayz2016dysamoria
  • Reply 7 of 26
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member
    I me it makes sense Apple might get out altogether from the Monitor business.  For the same reason they likely won't enter the TV panel business.  Apple should be focused on the products it's ecosystem actually runs on, and let others supply the dumb peripherals.
    A monitor for a professional computer setup is far from a dumb peripheral. And as TVs become smarter and their built in OS continues to improve companies such as Apple will in time be left with no choice but to build a TV proper or be left out of the loop for some customers. I say you're wrong on both counts here.

    The reason for no new monitor is the technology isn't ready for what they want to do, yet. And the reason for no TV (in addition to existing puck product) is they have no compelling TV package inked to subsidise the large cost of entry for an Apple television.
    edited June 2016
  • Reply 8 of 26
    If you have a 12" MacBook with USB-C the best option is the Acer H277HU. Love this display!! Single port integration for power and display (easier than Thunderbolt!), great picture, great price.
  • Reply 9 of 26
    irelandireland Posts: 17,620member
    yeloshak said:
    If you have a 12" MacBook with USB-C the best option is the Acer H277HU. Love this display!! Single port integration for power and display (easier than Thunderbolt!), great picture, great price.
    The is one of the features of USBc. Think it looks better written this way too.
  • Reply 10 of 26
    wozwozwozwoz Posts: 232member
    Apple not producing a monitor is simply unacceptable. 
    dysamoriaJackW327
  • Reply 11 of 26
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,223moderator
    ireland said:
    Within 12 months I'd say we'll see a new Apple monitor. Apple won't wish to leave such money on the table as someone checks out a Mac Pro, and as notebooks become thinner and smaller a large Apple monitor will be attractive to some. They could take this in any direction and make it a pro hub for notebook Macs and a welcome extension for desktop Macs. Yeah I don't see Apple quitting the monitor game.
    Apple said to buy 3rd party options though, that doesn't sound like the kind of recommendation you'd make if you planned to bring out a new display:

    https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/23/start-your-speculation-engines-apple-is-discontinuing-its-thunderbolt-display/

    "We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display. It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users"

    I don't remember them ever saying they were discontinuing a product, recommending alternatives, to then update it. Apple records these sales in their "other" category along with Beats, Watch, Apple TV etc. Last quarter, that category made just over $2b.

    3m Watch x $450 = $1.35b
    2m Apple TV x $149 = $298m
    300k Beats x $250 = $75m
    20m iPhone/iPad accessories x $15 = $300m

    This leaves under $100m for displays so at $1k each, it's under 100k units. This is under 1 in 50 Mac users. Before Beats, Watch, iPod merging, the "other" category made ~$500m/quarter (still included iOS device accessories) and ~$250m/q before the iPhone. It's not just the numbers that they use to judge whether to keep making a product but the sales growth. Consistently downward sales typically end up discontinued.

    Given that they are building 21"/27" iMacs, the simplest thing they could do is build iMacs without the computer components inside. Exact same chassis and manufacturing line and just leave out the computer parts and allow that to work over Thunderbolt 3. This lets them repurpose any unsold inventory of displays as iMacs.

    People will still buy <$500 4K 3rd party displays but 3rd party 5K displays are still $1k+ and the 21.5" 4k can hit a lower price point. Ideally the 21.5" iMac would be 24".

    Apple's displays would be laminated, anti-glare and they can go 10-bit HDR and full display control from the Mac system and keyboard and can have AirPlay capability for iOS devices and laptops. Still compelling vs 3rd party displays.
  • Reply 12 of 26
    I would quibble with the choice of words in the title. Instead of "alternatives" it should be something like "equivalents" or some such. 

    For Mac Pro and iMac 5K owners, there are different and better "alternatives" than the 4K units you have listed -- primarily the Dell 5K 27" UP2715K at about $1500. Can also be used as a 4K display with a single mini-DisplayPort.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 26
    twswifttwswift Posts: 1member
    What is the stock app shown here?
  • Reply 14 of 26
    This article got me SO EXCITED that Dell might have released a 43" 4K IPS monitor, but it turned out to not be true, and the article should really be amended.  That is actually a Dell 2x2, 1,920 x 1,080 monitor array with 4 separate monitor inputs.  That's why it's so cheap.  There is no evidence this could ever be used to create a single 4K desktop, so it's hardly a replacement for a Thunderbolt display.

    To the monitor makers out there - PLEASE give use larger monitors.  40" is so much better than 30"...


  • Reply 15 of 26
    mdjcmmdjcm Posts: 28member
    My problem is that monitor specs never state whether the display will be pin sharp and glossy like Apple's monitors.

    I know they are the same resolution, but something about the imac's glass screen really makes pictures vivid. The dell monitors I've seen have a kind of matte screen on top that takes the edge off and makes the picture duller and less sharp. It's just not the same.
  • Reply 16 of 26
    prokipprokip Posts: 149member
    After using 2 of Apple 30" 2560 x 1600 displays for over 8 years I am really hanging out for a replacement Apple 4k/5k monitor with Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3/C on the back.  I have tried some alternatives such as Dell's P2715Q etc and was so disappointed that I sent it back.

    C'mon Tim, or Jony, we need an Apple monitor from you guys for all our Apple gear, not some crap-ware from Dell or Asus or Mao Tse Dung or whoever!
  • Reply 17 of 26
    croprcropr Posts: 944member
    I recently bought a Philips 4K 28" monitor for my Mac mini and I quite like it
  • Reply 18 of 26
    The Philips 43 inch 4k monitor uses the same panel as the Dell 43 inch but the Philits has more features: e.g. HDMI 2.0 for 60hz 4k and its cheaper to boot.

    https://www.amazon.com/Philips-BDM4350UC-43-Inch-IPS-LED-Monitor/dp/B01E18XRY2


    edited June 2016
  • Reply 19 of 26
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    hmlongco said:
    The LG 34UM88-P is okay but the new LG 34UC98 34-Inch WQHD IPS curved LED Monitor is far superior. The IPS display in the older 34" displays, including the 34UM88-P and those from other manufacturers, often suffer from light bleed in the corners. I bought the 34UC98 three weeks ago, replacing an older Apple Cinema display, and I absolutely love the new monitor.

    The curve is fairly gentle, but there's still enough to bring the text near the edges of the screen closer to your eyes, effectively placing it the same distance away from your eyes as text in the center of the display. I'm not sure curved screens make sense for home theater-sized 65" displays, but I'm now sold on them for desktop monitors.

    The 34UC98 has more of a matte display finish than did Apple's glossy Thunderbolt and Cinema Displays, and as such it's much, much, much easier on my eyes. No more glare from overhead lights and outside windows. The sharpness, to my eyes, is equally comparable.

    Definitely worth checking out...

    The Curve LG is only $70 extra and it's worth the price difference. I hate curved TV but curved monitor especially LG is great since the viewing distance is just perfect.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    staticx57staticx57 Posts: 399member
    The Asus PA328Q 32" 4K UHD Monitor has been eclipsed by the newer PA329Q with a wider gamut. It is worth the couple extra hundred. I myself ended up with an LG 27MC67 27" 4K display. I got it for a hair over $400 so it is a great value and it includes the necessary HDMI 2.0 port so I can stream protected 4k content like netflix since it has HDCP 2.2. Unfortunately it is UHD not 4k but minor things.
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